Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes
Studio Interior Looking East (II)
Graphite on paper with blue and red threads.
21 x 22 inches (53.3 x 55.9 cm)
Gift of the artist.
Courtesy of Betty Cunnigham Gallery. © Rackstraw Downes

Describing himself as a painter of his surroundings rather than a landscape painter, Rackstraw Downes is committed to drawing and painting from obsevation. Since the late 1960s, he has been known for his vast, meticulously rendered panoramic depictions of New York City and parts of Texas. Faithful to a conception of the landscape as "a place where people live and work," he focuses on banal neighborhoods, which he sees as "magical" -- be they a sewage treatment plant under construction or a bridge under a highway ramp. In recent years, unable to stand for hours outside, he has turned his attention to his studio environment, as in the present drawing. Giving the same weight to every object -- a chair, a painting on the wall, or a ceiling light fixture -- he draws what he sees, offering us an intimate glimpse into his familiar world. Whether indoor or outdoor, light and atmosphere play an essential role in Downes' poetic evocation of the ordinary. Although he has made paintings of the same subject, Downes does not consider his drawings as studies but rather as a way to get acquianted with the motif: "I draw, not to establish anything, but to get an acquaintance with a place. A drawing for me is like a first meeting with a person."


Inscribed at lower left: / light / on

The artist.
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